Surely it cannot be a coincidence that the European Union is introducing its new data protection regulation, GPDR, on 25 May, the day known to SciFi fans the world over as ‘Towel Day’?
For the uninitiated, ‘Towel Day’ celebrates the life and literature of the late great Douglas Adams, the British author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels and (for the Netflix generation) Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
The Guide advises space travelers to always travel with a towel because, after all, ‘a towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. …. You can wrap it around you for warmth … use it to sail a mini-raft down the slow heavy River Moth… wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat. You can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.’
Well, today we are all travelers, heading into the (partially) unknown space of a new data protection environment. While we have done everything we can to prepare for GDPR, it is not until regulatory bodies start to enforce its provisions that we will really understand how the European Union’s equivalent of The Guide, an 88 page document with a multitude of emerging guidance at European and national level, is going to impact us. (For our initiated: perhaps the answer is indeed 42).
So, as we navigate this privacy asteroid field it’s going to be really important to also keep our towel close by.
And this means two key things for all of us. First, we have to adhere to the privacy principles of GDPR: transparency – make sure we let people know how Amadeus is processing their data; proportionality – process data only as necessary to provide services and share it on a need-to-know basis; and adequate protection – keep the data secure and treat it as strictly confidential.
Just as importantly, however, we now need to incorporate those principles as a matter of ‘privacy by design’ into our entire development cycle. We need to promote compliance right from first concept and take the opportunity to lead the travel industry in this cutting edge field.
The outlook and expertise required for this is something of a step change for us, but so long as we look after our towel, then I know that this is a challenge we can meet.
There are sure to be some difficult days ahead of us. Fortunately, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy dispenses advice that goes beyond towels and is useful in most eventualities.
As the cover of The Guide reassuringly advises all of us in bold neon letters: “DON’T PANIC!’